In light of the two management roles made vacant at Premiership sides Sunderland and Blackburn, many managers were considered. Some candidates had Premiership experience, some had experience abroad, and some had little or no coaching experience at all.
However, one manager was ignored altogether, and when looking at his record and undoubted pedigree, it’s hard to see why Gary Johnson wasn’t considered for either role.
He’s served his apprenticeship in all of the lower leagues, with success stories at Cambridge United, Yeovil Town, and more recently Bristol City to speak of. And he’s managed at international level with Latvia. His CV is one that many managers would envy.
Yet, when it comes to the big jobs, Johnson is constantly ignored.
Is it because he isn’t seen as a big name? It’s a common thought that the best players don’t necessarily make the best managers, and that could well be true in Johnson’s case, where his playing career was modest to say the least. It’s through hard work and endeavour that he has got to where he is today.
His record compares favourably with that of Paul Ince, yet it was the former England midfielder who got the call to take the Blackburn job in the summer. Six months later, Ince unceremoniously got the boot at Ewood Park. Who’s to say Johnson couldn’t have done a better job?
After all, he has all the tools to succeed. Johnson is seen as a great man-manager who can get the best out of people. Players work hard for him, and more importantly, enjoy working for him. Who expected Bristol City to be in the promotion mix last season? To be 90 minutes away from the Premiership was beyond all Robins fans dreams.
And his manner with the media is something to admire. In front of the cameras, the Londoner is confident and perceptive. It’s to his credit that he has appeared on Match of the Day, a place where managers from the lower leagues are largely ignored.
The football? Like the best managers, Johnson adapts to the conditions accordingly, and isn’t afraid to instruct his team to go direct when adverse weather conditions make a crisp passing style difficult. But on their day, the Robins are as attractive to watch as anyone in the Championship.
Johnson’s approach was no more evident than at Yeovil—where the Glovers stormed the Conference and Division Three titles with displays of scintillating, attacking football. It was a joy to watch, and it was this success that saw him get the call at Ashton Gate.
So, has he taken Bristol City as far as he can? Quite possibly. City currently lie in 15th place in the Championship—nine points away from the playoff spots. A fresh challenge may be required if Johnson is to fulfill his undoubted management potential.
But as time goes by, it seems Premiership clubs are becoming increasingly reluctant to take a punt on managers from the lower leagues. Foreign appointments are seen as better options.
The last success story to come from the lower leagues was a certain David Moyes, who after impressing with Preston North End, was taken from Deepdale to Goodison Park in 2002.
And he hasn’t done too badly, has he?